October 2001

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Pure Energy and Thinking Outside the Box
Empower APEGGA Volunteer Steve Wyton, P.Eng.

Public Relations Coordinator

Steve Wyton, P.Eng., is a project engineer with City of Calgary Solid Waste Services. He graduated in 1994 with a B.Sc. in civil engineering from the University of Calgary. Mr. Wyton gained business insight and strategy working in the rotational program at the city, which gave him a well-rounded experience in all aspects of municipal engineering as a project engineer in Waterworks, Streets, Sewers and Solid Waste Services. Besides volunteering for the Outreach program, Steve is an executive member of APEGGA's Calgary branch.

Why did you become involved in Outreach?

Outreach is my favorite involvement with APEGGA because I absolutely love the look on someone's face when they learn something new. It has helped to hone my skills as a presenter and provides an opportunity to break away from hard-core engineering. I have developed great friendships as a result of my involvement. You can't beat the sense of well-being that comes from helping another person learn something new and exciting.

What are your other hobbies and interests?

I have taken up golfing about two years ago and it is now my new passion! I am lucky to work near to a number of courses and driving ranges, so I have been able to get my score down to the high 80s to low 90s. I am also a real outdoor enthusiast -- I love hiking, camping and mountain biking. My favorite trip was the West Coast Trail, which I hiked in 1998. As well, I volunteer as a personal trainer at the YMCA and a volunteer with the Calgary Stampede. (Mr. Wyton also competed in an amateur bodybuilding contest in 1996.)

Have you received an award or special recognition that is important to you?

I received the City of Calgary Star of Excellence in 1998, which is awarded annually to seven people or business groups. The award was for a project that implemented the use of tire shred as an alternative to gravel drainage layers in Calgary landfills. By diverting the use of gravel the benefits are many fold. Since 1996, the project has saved the City of Calgary taxpayers over $3 million, making it cost effective. As well it is an environmentally sensitive alternative as it has diverted over four million used tires from the landfills and has spared the use of a non-renewable resource. I am very proud that I made a significant contribution to the fact that Alberta is the only place in North America where there isn't a major waste tire stockpile. (This initiative generated great deal of interest, which culminated in Mr. Wyton's submission of a public interest paper in October 2000, An Alternate Civil Engineering End-Use for Recycled Tire Shred Leachate Drainage Layer in Sanitary Landfills.)

Do you have any funny or weird Outreach stories?

One time I was giving a presentation on structures to a Grade 7 class. We were discussing the design of the space shuttle and how it relates to concept of zero gravity and the vacuum of space. Of course, kids come up with some of the best questions like, "How do you fit space shuttle in a vacuum?" But one question blew me away: "What is the temperature of a vacuum?" I replied, "Excuse me?" The future engineer further explained his question exactly as this: "Since temperature is a measure of energy between particles and you said a vacuum is devoid of all particles, what is the temperature of a vacuum"? Wow! That is impressive reasoning skills for a university graduate, let alone a Grade Seven student! My response: " Well…it is very, very cold!"

Is there a person who has been helpful in your development as a professional?

The entire Solid Waste Services team is a great group of people that I am proud to call peers and friends. I am fortunate that I have always been given the freedom to express and explore ideas and the fact that we work so well together. Sometimes the craziest ideas develop into things of value.

A number of individuals also stand out in my mind: John Wood, P.Eng. and Doug Jamieson, P.Eng. Both are professionals who I respect and trust as friends. When I first graduated from university, they both made great effort to help me find employment and get my life in order, to which I am grateful. This has instilled a feeling of responsibility in me to turn the deed to other new graduates.

Most importantly, my parents played a major role in my professional development. They taught me how to work through a problem until a reasonable solution is found, to live every moment to its fullest and the rare ability to listen before you talk.

What would you consider as a dream project, one that you would like to be involved in?

My dream project would be anything that involves cutting edge, new technology -- allowing me to constantly expand my knowledge and develop new and exciting ideas. As a project engineer with the city, these types of projects don't grow on trees, but I have been dedicated to leading Solid Waste Services into developing a landfill gas collection and utilization project. The project could potentially use microturbine technology to produce electricity from collected landfill gas.

I also love projects that challenge my abilities -- those that aren't so "cookie-cutter." As an example, I am responsible for remediating a few old landfills within Calgary, of which one will be turned into softball diamonds. The challenge here is to make a site safe for public use and to the environment without letting anyone onto the fact that it is an old landfill! If I can make an engineered remediation look natural and "unengineered," I am successful!

What do you think the next hot trend/subject/discipline will be in engineering?

I believe that the alternative energy field will be the next hot discipline. It partially stems from the energy crisis in California and the energy deregulation here in Alberta. There seem to be numerous new ideas and projects sprouting up everywhere: from the city's new GreenMax program and wind turbine farms in Southern Alberta to the use of fuel cells in vehicles and microturbines in condominium developments. I am fortunate to be working on a joint initiative between Solid Waste Services, ENMAX and PanCanadian Petroleum. The project involves drilling into closed portions of Calgary's landfill sites to determine the quality and quantity of methane gas.

If the testing works out, this gas could be used to generate electricity. This is where I see the future of engineering heading, energy companies redirecting their exploration for oil and gas, their "milk and honey", which is running out, to explore other options, environmentally sensitive options which maximize output and efficiency.

What is your motto?

Do onto others as you wish onto you.


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